Americans, airports and one confused, lost European

David Soler

There is something magical about touching U.S. soil when you come from a different country. It’s difficult to describe. That smell of good fortune, that feeling of success at hand.

That undisclosed amount of people ready to deceive and mislead you.

In Europe, if you ask people for directions, the usual answer is “I don’t know.” In the United States, the problem is too many people seem to know.

The travel dynamics are where I found it: Imagine being in an air-polis (an airport so big you can find homeless people) and entering into a foreign country (America to me) where they speak a dead, easy language, but with scores of complex and disparate accents that make understanding it comparable to talking with a hippopotamus underwater.

I was in this very situation when I traveled here from Barcelona.

There were a lot of people from different backgrounds at the airport, and I asked them: “Sorry, do you know where the Continental Airlines check-in is?” They answered me with a strong and confident: “Terminal three.” “Terminal three.” “Terminal three.”

I was holding about a hundred pounds in luggage; the flight was long — about eight hours in an airborne can — and the food bad and scarce, so indulge me: I believed them.

Not until reaching terminal three (leaving behind some suspicious “Delta Airlines” banners) did I realize my mistake — actually it was a 300-people line waiting for check-in. My instinct tickled me: “David, it can’t be here!”

Then, with time for catching my next flight running low, a concept I call “fuzzy knowledge” came into action. Now the problem was that the officials and janitors I asked who started hypothesizing had just too many possible terminals: four, one, five and maybe two.

Overwhelmed, I decided to start reading on my own, and I found the answer on a casual, big, red map panel I had passed twice previously. But then, which floor to go to? “Oh yes, first floor” another casual helper told me. I believed him again. “Two misleads in one day is unlikely,” I thought. But again, a taxi driver looking for a customer showed me the writing on the wall: “Check-ins here? Ha, ha, ha… Arrivals are here, boy!” And he forgot to add: “Those gullible Europeans, what fools they are!”

Finally, I reached the Continental stand. After surviving four people before me in line who made me lose another half hour because they behaved like 50 people in line, one single factor avoided me from losing my plane and missing my flight to my other American destination.

You might think I got a fast track to the boarding door, avoiding taking off my shoes? Or a free VIP treatment because my birthday was that day? Of course not!

The plane got delayed one hour pre-boarding it and two hours after boarding it. If Shakespeare would have taken airplanes, the scene of watching a row of planes taking off while waiting two hours for his turn to come would have inspired his best works, I am sure.

David Soler is a graduate student studying biomedical sciences and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].